In the United States, when someone violates a law, whether under criminal or civil practice, the victim or the plaintiff will have a certain amount of time to bring either criminal or civil proceedings. The time between the injury or harm and when the victim/plaintiff must bring a claim is called the statute of limitations. Statute of limitations were put into place to encourage victims/plaintiffs to bring an action as soon as possible, in particular while the evidence is still fresh, the memories and testimonies are still intact, and while many of the witnesses are still alive. This is to ensure that a case is not tried unnecessarily and time and money wasted to litigate or bring criminal proceedings long after the injury and/or harmful incident occurred. In light of the significant backlog in cases that are awaiting adjudication, allowing those not-so-fresh cases to fall to wayside is in the best interests of the justice system, especially where fresh cases are backlogged and waiting for months on end for closure.
Statute of Limitations Relates to Severity of Crime, Harm Against Another
The severity of the crime or incidence determines the extent by which the statutes of limitations are strict or broadened time limitations. Crimes like murder generally have no statutes of limitations because of the severity of the crime, whereas misdemeanors or property damage, where the harm is limited, receives a shorter span of time by which the action may be brought.
Statute of Limitations and Crimes/Harm Against Children
When it comes to children and harms against children, the statute of limitations allow for broader time limitations due to the immaturity of the child at the time of the harm, and possibly the necessity of passed time to truly understanding and recollect the incident at issue. For many victims of sexual abuse or sexual trauma, there can be a delayed discovery, by which the trauma may have been suppressed, but some contemporary event brings the trauma to light. While the statute of limitations law try to adequately protect children, it must also balance the understanding that the recollection of a child may be more difficult to articulate, then if the injury were to happen to a fully-matured adult.
Maryland’s House Bill 642
Maryland is looking to extend the statute of limitations to better and more adequately protect children who have suffered from sexual abuse and allow for those survivors of child sexual abuse to bring civil actions. The Maryland bill, presented in February of 2017 and if passed, would go into effect October 1, 2017, would extend beyond the current statute of limitations that permits victims of child sexual abuse to come forward until seven years after the child has reached the age of maturity. In other words, the person could bring a civil suit for damages against his/her sexual abuser until the age of 25.
The Proposed Updated Statutes of Limitations Against the Grossly Negligent Related to the Sexual Abuse
The proposed bill would increase the statute of limitations to 20 years, so as to better understand how the sexual abuse has affected the person and the extent of mental and physical trauma for which they are being treated by a medical professional. The proposed bill also provides a cause of action to the child (up until the age of 25 years) for damages against a person and/or a government entity who is not the alleged sexual abuser, when the person or government entity owed a duty of care to the victim, the person or government entity was responsible for or employed the alleged perpetrator, and the person or government entity was found to be grossly negligent as related to the incident of sexual abuse.
Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You
Child sexual abuse is a heinous crime and affects one in five girls, and one in 20 boys before the age of 18. If you or a child has suffered the physical, emotional, and mental trauma associated with sexual abuse, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to see the extent to which you may be able to recover damages from your perpetrator and those who knew or should have known about the abuse. Please call the Law Office of Robert R. Castro at (301) 804-2312 for a confidential consultation.